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Do the French really still eat frogs’ legs?

Do the French actually eat frogs' legs, or is it just a horrible myth invented by the English?

Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
Photo: Gunawan Kartapranata/WikiCommons
If you ask someone outside of France to list five things they associate with France, you can bet your last euro that “frogs' legs” will jump out. 
 
Heck, some people still refer to French people as frogs.
 
But do the people of France actually eat frogs' legs, or cuisse de grenouilles as they are called here?
 
The short answer is yes, albeit in certain parts of the country more than others.
 
So just how popular are frogs' legs in France?
 
The French eat an estimated 80 million a year (that's 160 million frog legs). 
 
If the figure seems high, don't forget that you need quite a few to make a decent meal.
 
 

A photo posted by Rainettes Paris (@rainettesparis) on

 
Where do they come from?
 
Though diners in white table-clothed French brasseries may not know it, their frogs' legs are most likely caught by hunters in the dead of the night in the murky swamps of tropical Indonesia and sold at local markets.
 
Indonesia accounts for around 80 percent of all European imports, in fact. 
 
Back in the day, they were pulled from the swamps of France, but authorities put a ban on commercial frog hunting and farming in the late 1980s as the frog populations drastically depleted. 
 
Back in 2013 fears were raised that the French appetite for frogs' legs was now threatening the dwindling frog population in Indonesia, where grenouilles are staple food for the local population.
 
Authorities in some parts of France do, however, allow frog catching if it's strictly for personal consumption. Some poachers still defy the ban, but face fines of up to €10,000.
 
Photo: Rainettes Paris
 
Are they only eaten in France?
 
Not at all. They're also quite popular in south-east Asia, parts of Europe, and the US is actually the second biggest importers of frogs in the world (largely thanks to the popularity of frogs' legs in the south).
 
And the Brits were eating them long before French, at least according to scientists in the UK. 
 
In 2013, archaeologists working near Stonehenge found toad bones that had been cooked and eaten on the site between 7596 BC and 6250 BC (or in other words, 8,000 years ago).
 
Clichés about the French all went out the window, at least for a day. 
 
Photo: AFP
 
Have they always eaten them? 
 
Legend has it that the French started eating frogs' legs in the 12th century when cunning monks who were forced into a “no-meat” diet managed to have frogs classified as fish. The peasants soon started to eat them too. 
 
Frog festival
 
The delicacy is particularly popular in eastern France, especially in the Vosges department. 
 
Every April in the town of Vittel, locals gather to eat “several tonnes” of frogs' legs in what sounds like one of the most French festivals on offer.  
 
The festival has been running for over 40 years. 
 
How do the French eat them?
 
Traditionally, the little thighs are grilled or deep fried. But you can also boil them, bake them, or sautée them. In other words, cook them how you like.
 
Once they're in front of you on a plate and ready to eat, it's traditional to eat them with your fingers. Knives and forks are often provided for those who don't want to get messy but they are best avoided given that there is not much meat on the bones.
 
Some diners prefer to put the whole leg in their mouth then spit out the little bones after.
 
So do they taste any good?
 
Well according to us here at The Local (hardly acclaimed food critics) it all depends on how they are cooked, which is like most dishes.
 
After a trip to a frogs' legs bar in Paris we can confirm that, like many people have said over the years, frogs' legs do taste and look a little like chicken albeit a soggier version, as if chicken had been blended with fish.
 
For first time eaters it's perhaps important not to think about what you're devouring (especially if you watch the video below) until the psychological barrier has been broken. 
 
They can be fiddly and you'll need a lot to be satisfied but when they are cooked in coriander, ginger, onion, garlic, pepper, soya sauce and honey, they are pretty tasty and it's fairly easy to polish off a dozen, especially when washed down with a bouncing Bombina cocktail.
 
So how can you cook them?
 
Here are five recipes in case you want to cook something un-frog-ettable for your friends. 
 
 
Are they good for you?
 
This delicacy is higher in protein but lower in fat than other meats including chicken. 
 
And frogs' legs are packed with the same omega-3 fatty acids, as well as potassium and vitamin A. Just be careful what you cook them in, as some sauces contain more salt than you might think.
 
They're not for everyone though, as many observant Jews and Muslims wouldn't eat them. 
 
And lastly… what's all this about twitching frogs' legs?
 
Well, because a frog is cold blooded, its muscles don't resolve rigor mortis so quickly, meaning that when you cook the legs (or add salt to raw legs) then they can twitch a bit.
 
Don't be frightened or put off, just be prepared. Enjoy your meal.  
 
 

Authorities in some parts of France do, however, allow frog catching if it's strictly for personal consumption. Some poachers still defy the ban, but face fines of up to €10,000.

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Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

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